A "Wine" Pizza?

    To this day, I fantasize about a certain thin-crust garlic pizza that I devoured many years ago in a tiny cafe in Venice, Italy. So flavorful was each bite with its excruciatingly intense aromatic topping that I promptly threw caution and budget to the wind and ordered a second. No pizza since has quite reached what could, in fact, be an exaggerated taste memory. But the search keeps me going back for more.
    On the evening I went to Croll’s Pizza and Deli on Central Avenue for a slice of pizza, I was out of luck, as they were out of garlic. This meant that they didn’t get to compete in the better-than-Venice taste test. So, in place of garlic, I ordered anchovy on the pizza with my cheese.
    Having no garlic might have triggered a bad experience—except the people staffing the place were so good-humored and friendly. An incidental encounter, showing the delights and vagaries of cross-cultural communication, got those waiting for their pizzas, and those making the pizzas, laughing: A customer who came in to pick up his order (Croll’s also delivers) repeatedly denied he had asked for wine with his pizza. Exasperated, the chef finally asked, “You wanted the one with the pineapple?” “Yes,” the customer agreed. It turned out the word that sounded like “wine” was in fact “Hawaiian,” the ham-and-pineapple pizza he was waiting for.
    I have eaten plenty of Croll’s pizza, and although I don’t really expect to find my “Venice pizza” there, I return because the cooks make what I think of as a superior everyday pizza. The base is always crispy, which to me is a must. I won’t opt for a Hawaiian pizza anytime soon, but I’m happy to have mine with wine.
Croll’s Pizza and Deli, 705 Central Ave.; (510) 865-6662. Opens daily at 11 a.m.; until 10 p.m. Sunday to Thursday; until 10:30 p.m. Friday and Saturday. Free deliveries.                                                           

—By Wanda Hennig

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